The Capacity to Care (Closure No5), 2016, A4, ink on paper
At a time controversially close to the event itself, it was said that the 9/11 terror event was ‘the last shock of the new‘, as the world spent a week in perpetual shock as the media horror show was melted into our brains like napalm.
24/7 rolling news was a new thing in 2001 (well, it was to me, here in the UK, anyway), and I remember for the following weeks my heart stopping every time I saw the words ‘breaking news’ appear on a news screen on a TV in a shop window. I wasn’t aware that the whole structure of a 24/7, unending news service was to shock, or interrupt us in our ‘always on’ 24/7 lives, that lack clear boundaries between work, leisure, the physical and virtual – the life we would increasingly live in the following 15 years.
The Internet was a chore in 2001, which required enthusiasm for Computers. But just around the corner we had Broadband and Smartphone technologies, which would soon glue our fingertips to an unending rolling news of personal, national, and international events.
I can honestly say I’ve seen news about pretty seismic terrorist attacks, and instantly forgot about them, because of the noise in my head as a stream of things grapple for my care and commitment. In fact I sometimes wonder if the draping of your Facebook profile with the colours of a country that has just endured a terror attack isn’t so much about blindly following what everyone else does, but is more about how we wished we had the capacity to care about the awful things that happen to others in our cruel world, but simply don’t.
This isn’t also to go in the politics of the political economy that is behind this techno-structure; the rule of market individualism has strengthened in our ‘always on’ times, making life feel unbearably competitive. We want to care. Most ‘millennial’s’ (especially) have been told so much of the horrors of the 20th century, that don’t bear repeating, but being ‘always on’, the deluge of shocks has clearly desensitized us. Anxiety hasn’t been diminished by this desensitization, we remain as bored of this world as much as we are anxious within it. Nobody likes to feel numb to things that should require our humanity. It’s this desire for our own humanity, that reflects a deeper desire for different kind of world.